Are you feeling recurring pain in your heel or arch? You might have a heel spur. They are surprisingly common and most people don’t even know they have them.
Heel spurs are bony growths on the bottom of the heel where the heel bone connects to the plantar fascia, which is the ligament that runs from the heel to the ball of the foot.
What causes heel spurs?
Heels spurs are caused by repeated strain on the muscles, ligaments and tendons in the foot, especially the plantar fascia. If you do a lot of jumping and jogging on hard surfaces, you may be experiencing pain in your heel or arch. With repetitive strain, calcium deposits build up on the heel as a protective measure and a spur can form. This spur can be up to half an inch in length, and even though this sounds like it should be a problem, most people won’t feel it unless it becomes aggravated.
It’s also not uncommon for people to visit us thinking they have a problem with their heel, when it is actually plantar fasciitis, and our podiatrists will be able to quickly determine the underlying condition.
The following increases the risk of heel spurs occurring:
- Running, jogging and other sporting activities on hard surfaces
- Poorly fitting shoes that don’t support the feet while running or walking
- Carrying excess weight which adds more stress to the feet
- Misalignment in the feet such as overpronation which causes excessive strain on the ligaments and tendons
- Poor mobility in the feet making it harder for the feet to act as shock absorbers
What are the symptoms of heel spurs?
Often there are no symptoms with heel spurs even for people who have them for many years. But sometimes symptoms can occur as a sudden onset of pain in the heel if the tissues are overly strained. These symptoms include:
- Feeling pain in the heel when you stand up after being immobile for a while (for example when you get up in the morning)
- Pain and inflammation around the heel
- A small bony lump in the heel that can be seen or felt
- A consistent and dull ache in the foot arch
Treatment of heel spurs
Self-help at home for heel spurs
If you feel pain in your arches or heels, here are some things you can do at home.
Rest and ice – put your feet up and place an icepack on the heel and arch for 10-15 minutes.
Stretching – stretch your arches, Achilles tendon and calf muscles. For your arches, role a tennis ball under your foot, it feels nice too.
Wear shoes with good support – lessen the strain on your feet by wearing shoes with good arch and heel support.
Choose a different sport or activity – if your current sport or activity is causing pain, then choose something with less impact such as swimming, cycling or yoga.
How we treat heel spurs at the podiatry clinic
Our podiatrists may provide assistance in one of the following ways to treat a heel spur.
Shoe orthotics – custom orthoses will support your arches and distribute the weight evenly over the foot. This will help your foot act as a better shock absorber, alleviating stress on the muscles and ligaments.
Athletic taping – we may suggest ways to use athletic tape to help support the plantar fascia and lessen the strain.
Physical therapy – strengthening and stretching the feet will improve their ability to cope with the stress. We aim to improve mobility and flexibility and use massage to release tightness and reduce inflammation. We may also use Ultrasound therapy as part of treatment.
Assessing your gait – and addressing any biomechanical problems in your feet that might be contributing to the heel spur.
Make an appointment
If you are experiencing pain in your heel, we’ll help you diagnose the problem and provide a treatment plan to alleviate the symptoms. Don’t be overly worried as heel spurs are easier to manage than other foot conditions.
Phone us at the clinic to make an appointment and have your heel pain assessed. Our family friendly podiatry clinics are conveniently located in Linden Park, Stirling and Mount Barker.